We do yoga, we drink green smoothies, we meditate (OK, sometimes). We consider ourselves pretty plugged into the whole wellness scene. Which is why we were intrigued when our friends started praising essential oils for everything from relieving stress to improving sleep quality. Here’s the deal.
What are they? Essential oils are highly concentrated, naturally occurring aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots and flowers of plants.
How do I use them? There are a bunch of things you can do with them, but the most common are aromatic diffusion (dropping them into a diffuser like this one), topical application (putting them directly onto your skin) and internal consumption (mixing with water and drinking, placing a drop under your tongue or taking in pill form). Note that many essential oils are too concentrated to be placed onto the skin, so always check the label first.
What do they do? First thing’s first, they smell really good. They also boast relaxing, skin-nourishing, therapeutic and antibacterial properties. Different oils work in different ways, so, for example, if you're anxious, use lemongrass oil, if you're nauseous, try ginger essential oil or if you're sore from a workout, give rosemary oil a shot.
But do doctors recommend them? Essential oils have been used medicinally throughout history, and and still are occasionally (a University of Kuwait study found that clove oil, for instance, contains a numbing agent that works in much the same way that local anesthetics do). Still, they're generally not a substitute for modern medicine, often because studies on the effectiveness of essential oils in treating chronic conditions are too limited to be considered canon. Essential oils are safe, though, so while you're certainly not guaranteed results, it's worth a try.